parts and crafts electronics kit.
In watching many kids play with the Snap Circuits electronics sets, it seemed to me that virtually no children made it beyond 1 - 2 hours of exploration with the kit, despite the claims of 100, 300, 500 (!) possible projects.
My observation was that:
The Parts and Crafts kit was a prototype I made to try and address some of the issues I saw.
The first idea was to try and make the pieces as transparent as possible. Something about how the snap circuits pieces were made I felt added to the sense that the parts were somehow special. The large plastic body and special metal connectors I felt made it possible for a child to not understand that a Snap Circuits resistor was really just an ordinary resistor mounted on plastic with conductive connectors. So the P&C parts were made where the connections were done with alligator clips, and simple brads were used to clip onto. The mounting was on ordinary foamcore, laser-cut to look like the parts.
The first kit had all the parts needed to make a simple burglar alarm. There was a magnetic switch like the kind you find on windows, and the idea was to use a second switch (a key switch) to arm an alarm -- if the magnetic switch got separated, simulating a window opening, a buzzer would sound. I remember we had a relay you had to learn to use, and possibly you had to invert one of the signals. The guiding idea was to come up with challenges -- not just paint-by-numbers style exercises -- that showcased layers of logic deeper than just turning one element off or on so that ideally, as these patterns internalized, children could use them in their own creations.
I demoed it at the first Maker Faire in Austin, 2008.